MUSKOGEE, Okla. (KFOR) – The Cherokee Nation unveiled its first in-house drug treatment center on Monday.
The treatment center is part of the tribe’s largest mental health investment in history, according to the Cherokee Nation. Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner presented the treatment center during a ceremony at Three Rivers Health Center on Monday.
“For over two decades, the opioid epidemic has plagued the Cherokee Nation Reservation and impacted every facet of our tribe and society. Hundreds of Cherokee Nation citizens have died from overdoses, and tens of thousands more have suffered,” Chief Hoskin said. “It caused generational trauma and put the future of our nation at risk. Nearly a third of the opioids distributed in the state in recent years were shipped into Cherokee Nation, because irresponsible drug makers and distributors preyed on the rural communities across our reservation. Our Attorney General’s Office pursued a lawsuit against the opioid industry. With those settlement funds, we will build this in-house treatment center and bolster our drug-addiction services, staff, programs and facilities across the Cherokee Nation Reservation. These efforts will help us bring some measure of relief, healing and justice to the Cherokee people.”
Officials say the treatment center is just one part of a $100 million mental health investment as part of the tribe’s adjusted Public Health and Wellness Fund Act. The amended Act was recently approved by the Council of the Cherokee Nation, allowing Chief Hoskin to sign it into law.
The tribe says the Public Health and Wellness Fund Act was originally passed in 2021 to allocate 7% of third-party health insurance collections to physical and mental wellness programs. Its first amendment in 2022 secured $15 million in opioid settlement funds for construction of a treatment facility.
The latest amendment includes an additional $83 million has been allocated to opioid settlement funds and almost $2 million in settlement funds from e-cigarette maker Juul.
“The Council of the Cherokee Nation recently approved the $100 million amended Public Health and Wellness Fund Act. It will provide $73 million to construct facilities across the reservation over the next five years to meet behavioral health service needs,” Deputy Chief Warner said. “It will also provide $5 million in scholarships to encourage more Cherokee citizens to enter behavioral health fields and work in the tribe’s health system. The investment will also dedicate millions for recovery employment programs and innovative strategies for recovery.”
The center’s plans are to include separate dormitories for men and women, and cultural amenities for residents like stickball fields, basketball courts, marbles courts and more, according to the tribe.
According to the Cherokee Nation, the legislation dedicates more than $100 million in public health settlement funds as follows:
- $73 million for a “Behavioral Health Capital Fund.” The fund would be used to construct facilities across the reservation over the next five years to meet behavioral health service needs, including drug treatment and prevention.
- $5 million for a “Behavioral Health Scholarship” endowment to encourage more Cherokee citizens to enter behavioral health fields and work in the tribe’s health system. The scholarships would include enhanced grants for students who go on to work for Cherokee Nation Health Services as part of a “payback” program. Scholarships would be available to Cherokee citizens living within the reservation and outside the reservation.
- $10 million over 10 years for “Career Services Recovery Employment Programs.” The programs would address employment and other economic barriers faced by Cherokee Nation citizens in addiction recovery.
- $10 million over 10 years for “Behavioral Health Innovative Addiction Recovery Programs.” The funding will enable Cherokee Nation’s Behavioral Health to develop new addiction recovery programs using the latest and most promising innovations and strategies in the field.
- $2.8 million “Smoking Cessation Fund,” boosting public health smoking cessation programs by $350,000 per year for the next eight years, doubling the funding of those programs.
“I am thrilled that Cherokee Nation is finally getting an inpatient treatment center,” said District 6 Councilor Daryl Legg. “We will now be able to give our people the treatment and care they need right here at home. I am confident that we will have one of the most successful centers in the state.”
The Cherokee Nation says the $18 million, 17,000-square-foot treatment center is to be located in the Park Hill area of Tahlequah. Construction for the center is planned to begin this year.